Monday, May 22, 2017

a beginning


Under a gray sky
thick with clouds,
dampness brushed
against my legs,
as I put my hand
over my heart
a chorus of birds
joined me in prayer
as I thanked God
for another
day.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

You Are My Soul

Yesterday the deer grazed on the edge of the cemetery looking in, just waiting. Tonight they were not in sight. I sprayed more deer deterrent around the pot a radius of about two feet. 

Yesterday I went to the greenhouse Jerry frequented where the owner knew of his purchasing habits. The man liked flowers. This time of year he would purchase dusty miller, geraniums and lobia. The owner reminded me of Jerry's love of yellow daisies. I chose another purple trailing flower to drape over the edge of the pot to adorn his grave. 
Jerry's best friend Dennis and I created the arrangement. Tonight I drove to the  cemetary alone.  I sat. I prayed and then I spoke to Jerry.   While watering the flowers a song popped into my head and I began singing," You are my heart you are my soul, you are my breath when I grow old, you are my lover, you're my best friend, you're in my soul." What a perfect song for the moment. I laughed right outloud.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Firsts

                                                                   Donnell Pond

Maine winters hang on. Just last week (the calendar says May), I was wearing boots and wool socks.  Today as we prepare for highs in the mid-70's everyone is wearing short sleeves.  Meanwhile, my winter jackets remain by the door.  "I think I will switch out my winter clothes for summer," I remarked to another teacher. Suddenly, I felt a pang of sadness deeply in my gut.

Jerry's winter clothes never came out of storage this year- the first time unworn.  As I prepare for warm weather and the passing of yet another season, his brightly colored swim trunks will remain in the closet. Even after seven months since his passing, I still have moments when I think he is coming home.  I think he will wear his brown 'Upto Camp' tee shirt while we both scramble into the truck loaded with fishing gear and food and head to camp.  Once we are on the dirt road, Jerry will roll down the window for Rex who is panting with excitement.   Our dog loves camp as much as we both do; this place where my husband has spent every summer since he was four years old.  This summer will be one of bittersweet firsts.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Rescue

Relief from this pain,
I know will come
but not soon enough
for me
the crushing blows
are sometimes unrelenting
and ill-timed.

I just want to be rescued-
an impossibility.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

open for fun

The message on this truck: RITZ: OPEN FOR FUN!



On Saturday, our middle daughter graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing.  She put herself through school (with her husband's help) while working part-time or full-time.  I'd say that is quite a feat.  Although joyous, the day pulsed with sorrow-missing my husband. The conflict of emotions was palatable. How great it would have been for him to be with us.  His laugh loud, I imagined his arms wrapping around our daughter, kisses marking her forehead, "I am so very proud of you.  You've worked so hard," he would draw her close.  How does one parent make up for the other's sudden absence?  I don't think this is possible.   I am me and I am not him.

I am the more practical, level-headed; I bet my kids would categorize me as boring in comparison to their father.   Feeling sad and a bit inadequate without him, blinking through tears, I look up and ahead spot a whole truck solely dedicated to Ritz Crackers.  Don't you think this is odd?  That was my first reaction and then it reminded me how much my husband loved Ritz. He would sit and eat a sleeve of the buttery crackers at a time.  The message is fun.  Fun can be infused into my life. Spontaneity can still be a part of my life too.  So can joy.

Then I remembered the first minutes of this day.  After a few slobbery kisses across my nose and lips from my dog Rex, he rolled over for a rub and wagged his tail furiously, batting it across my face.  I laughed out loud. My head resting back on the pillow, I smiled.  Immediately my thought was, "I am happy.  It is a new day."  My husband's philosophy: Each day we are given is a gift.  He taught me so much, among the lessons...infuse each day with fun-each day is indeed a gift.  I certainly digested Ritz's public service announcement.  Thanks Jerry.





Saturday, May 13, 2017

Celebrating

Facing Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays are hard enough; I was not prepared today for the constant heartache during such an important family celebration-my daughter's college graduation. Both my husband and I were so very proud of our daughter who was able to hold her own engaging in medical talk with the specialists at Dana Farber and Brigham and Women's.  Jerry and I were quickly lost in their consultation necessitating that Gabrielle skillfully translate day after day and week after week during our month-long stay.  We were forever grateful for her capacity to grasp a depth of medical knowledge elusive to us.   We are forever grateful for her ability to love and support us through one of the most difficult times in our relationship, preparing for the untimely end of my husband's life.

Today Gabrielle earned a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing.  Today I am carrying the lightness of elation as well as the somber, "'God, I miss my husband'-grief." Moments of empty silence throughout the day inflated my sorrow.

I prayed often.  I whispered to my husband to give me strength-crying in private, while smiling and laughing celebrating the accomplishment of our remarkable daughter.   Her father's death is shaping us both;  I know she is destined for great things. My husband always knew this.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Woman

There was a time, a long time ago that a woman, a busy mother sat on a cushion and meditated.  This woman woke early each morning and from the perch of her yoga mat, she breathed, she stretched and smiled.  With this practice of prayer, meditation and yoga she felt balanced, strong and vigorous.  She took care of her husband, her kids (too many to count) and her mother-in-law.  This life was filled with responsibility, but she was able to find peace and contentment.

The house this woman lives in now has two dogs, four cats and a teenager.  Everyone else has grown up and moved out of the house to seek themselves.  The mother-in-law passed away, Alzheimer's robbing her of a life long before her body gave out.  And sadly, the woman's husband who was the love of her life died quite suddenly and unexpectedly leaving her mostly alone in the big house.  Wanting to take care of herself and ease the grip of grief, the woman remembered how peaceful and balanced she felt on her mat moving and then sitting and emptying her mind.  The woman felt good paying attention to her breath and reciting prayers of healing and light.  She remembers.

For a long time the woman was able to just think about doing yoga.  Weeks and months passed.  She thought and thought, but that is all she could do.  One day she bought yoga pants and a shirt.  The woman dragged her yoga mat from the closet.  Standing in the mountain pose, feeling tall and strong the woman breathed deeply, she stretched, she twisted and for a short time felt her body.  The woman's mind was occupied with her breath, her strength and all the possibilities that her daily practice brought her.

Sitting in a crowd of seventy people young and old who have lost loved ones, the woman was told by Rosie Dalton, a once grieving mother turned life coach, "Your only job is to take care of yourself-that is all you can do."  The woman took this advise seriously.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Before...Now

Before, I woke to gentle kisses as he held me and whispered in my ear, "Good morning, Beautiful."
Now, I wake to kitty nudges and doggy kisses.

Before, I would race home from work anxious to see him.
Now, I go home to a list of things that must be done.

Before, the wood stove was continually warming the house with his vigilant attention.
Now, I put on an extra layer and restart the fire over and over.

Before, after supper we would go for a walk together.
Now, I tend to go alone or not at all.

Before, we played Parcheesi everyday.
Now, I beg anyone to play.

Before, two Dove dark chocolates were rationed each day.
Now, I'm out of control.

Before, we would spend long days at camp boating, fishing and just being together.
Now, I just don't know...


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Just Ask?

In darkness, I fumbled around the bedroom that my husband and I had taken over in the last six weeks.  My bra in hand, my brain in a dense fog I was unclear what to do with it.  The strap hung from my fingers.  "Breathe," I reminded myself.  My clothes were all laid out for the day; it took me forever to dress as though each article of clothing was foreign. Buttons and zippers impossible.  My husband's best friend was coming to pick me up shortly after 4 a.m. taking me to the hospital, as I began my first hour without my husband.







In the aftermath of loss, there are some days that I just don't know what I want other than my husband to return by my side and stay there.  Alone the simplest of decisions are major events.  Still mundane tasks seem to take forever to execute.  My bullet journal has become a tool that helps to alleviate an over-taxed brain.  To do lists have become instructions to live day by day. These written reminders have become doable blueprints for living.

One day, I will adjust to a degree to this new life.  Despite the everyday challenges, I still look for joy.  I look for the blessings even through loss.  However, courageous I am, right now I haven't a clue what to ask for, but relief from this pain. Asking isn't all that simple, is it?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Stress-less

Standing in a half crouch, I turn away squeezing my eyes shut and pressing my ears closed with my fingers.  I do not breath, until I hear a muffled, "Barbara it is OK." I blink furiously and watch the flame surround the pan on the stove top. Jerry thought it was funny, but anxiety is debilitating.

My father held fear in his back pocket.  I couldn't mow the lawn because I might cut off a foot.  I couldn't climb a ladder because I might fall off.  Everything in my life was a potential life threatening affair.  As an adult, my anxiety is tempered somewhat, but at times I can still hear my father's voice in my head audio flashing, "Unsafe.  Warning. Stay away. You'll get hurt or blow up. Warning.  Warning."

Tonight I had planned a dish that required sauteing and then baking.  After chopping an onion, I turned the knob to engage the flame under the cast iron pan and nothing happened.  I tried another.  Nothing.  I thought I detected gas with those few attempts, so I stopped.  If Jerry were here he would confidently get a match and light it manually.  If that didn't work, he would check the level of propane.  Hearing warnings chattering in my head, I did neither; instead I plugged in the instant pot and began sauteing the onions.  In less than 20 minutes I was eating. Sometimes, it just isn't worth it to stress.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Tribute

The County-Jerry and Rex (year unknown)

Travelinma is 10 years old today.  Ten years ago, my friend Jeff Kirlin encouraged me to begin a photoblog.  He had started one and was having lots of fun.  Having just returned to Maine following my first trip to Costa Rica, I had a slew of really great shots. Exotic location plus perfect lighting equals engaging photography, right?  So, on May 7, 2007 I posted a guest photo of a questzal taken with my camera (Panasonic-pocket type) by Ricardo the guide that led us into the Rain Forest on a search for the bird and other creatures that showed up like a sloth.

I had thought of myself as a writer until sometime in high school when the
English teacher marred by piece with a red pen. He offered little encouragement and frankly, I was a bit angry and discouraged. My image of myself as a writer was tentative. In college, my professor Jay Hoar who was a Civil War buff and writer helped me as we wrote volumes and read and read. When my twins were two, Jerry supported me in applying to Stonecoast Writing Retreat.  Lasting a week or two, that experience changed my life.  At that point, I hadn't done much writing beyond professional pieces like IEP and Assessment Reports as part of my teaching job until my youngest brood could fend for themselves.  Again encouragement from a friend Lynn Bonsey led me to the Maine Writer's and Publishers Alliance and my mentor, Susan Hand-Shetterly.  Without nudges, Travelinma would not exist as it is today.

For a long time, I continued to photograph my life, but the desire to marry image and words gnawed at they thirst to express myself in ways beyond photography.  Travelinma chronicles family-in good times and in challenging moments.  Travelinma seeks answers.  Travelinma shows the evolution of a woman who rediscovers herself with every new day.  Travelinma supports those dealing with loss.  Travelinma shows the frailty and the uncertainty of life, as well as the possibilities.  Travelinma records love.

Travelinma is likely to outlive me. Just think of that! Depending upon the technological format that my grandchildren will encounter, it is possible that they will learn about their grandparents and their aunts and uncles living during this time.  On that day in May a decade ago, never did I imagine that a blog, my blog would mean so much.

Happy 10th birthday to my creation, Travelinma.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Progressive

Option A is not available.  So let's just kick the shit out of Option B.
                                      -from Option B written by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant


A year ago we walked hand in hand out of an appointment with the oncologist elated that we received the news that we had been hoping for-my husband was going to survive cancer.  It seemed easy.  My husband strong, vibrant and healthy, later we both talked about how lucky he was to get out of it so easy.  No further treatment necessary. Other people suffered so, we both carried a tinge of guilt and relief.

Well, long story short.  My husband suffered greatly.  I stood by him helpless, despite our attempts to find answers.  Month after month everything got cloudy as overnight my husband who was doing 1,000 sit ups a day in June transformed into a frail old man who could not bend down to tie his shoe.  Six months after we received repeated messages, "He's not going to die from this," my husband died early one morning holding the hand of one of his dearest friends.

I don't really want to be a widow, but I am.  I cling to routine.  It gives me comfort.  I tire as easily as I cry.  I laugh when I think of my husband and my heart literally expands when I think of our love. 

Fortunately, he gave me room to explore and discover myself while we were a couple.  Igniting my creativity makes me feel whole.  I write.  I am a photographer.  I dabble in drawing and play around with Zentangles.  I paint, but I don't really know what I am doing. (I have enrolled in two online classes.)  I can sew a fairly straight line with not so even stitches and I knit-usually one scarf a year.  Metalsmithing is something new for me and it gives me great satisfaction even though I am just learning.  Because I  built a life beyond a "couple-ship" through the support of my husband, I am able to engage in activities that help piece me back together.  This was a gift from my progressive husband who let me spend hours in the darkroom while he tended to the kids by changing diapers and doling out snacks.  I know how lucky I was and I consider myself to be darn lucky now despite the fact that I no longer have the physical presence of my love by my side.  I intend to "kick the shit out of plan B" and recreate and expand myself.  I have many options.  There is no escape from grief, but I intend to learn to live with it.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Pondering



TO KNOW THE DARK

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark.  Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
                                                    -Wendell Berry

It is only going into the darkness that one will see the light and take note.  When in the light all that is seen is light. When darkness settles however, shadows stretch and the contrast between darkness and light casts its' own wonder, dancing across time and space. Without spending time in darkness would I notice the splendor?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Preparations for Yet Another

It seems to have happened overnight.  After days of dreary weather, the sun today gives respite from darkness and unending bone-chilling rain that makes the grass appear a vibrant green. Once it grows; it never stops.

My husband was a collector.  We have windows, if you are in need of any window of any shape and  size.  We have lawn mowers (at least I think).  Historically, he had an array of push mowers and ride-ons. Yet the shovels are not yet put away, leaning against the door, while my winter coats still hang on hooks throughout the house, just in case.  I just don't know if I have one working lawn mower. Thoughts of tackling this, just overwhelm me.  I am out of my territory. Meanwhile the grass grows at a furious rate after months of dormancy.

It has been decades since I have pushed a mower.  I am not sure how to start one.  It seems that my anxiety about another change of season and my first spring without my handy husband may have been alleviated had I planned ahead a little bit.  Yet, I need to give myself a break; after all I am carrying the load of two adults.  My schedule opens a bit this weekend.  I will walk the property checking for rocks and sticks that may catch in the mower, but not before I find at least one mower in working order and pray for dry weather.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

a bully


                                                                        Costa Rica-year unknown

Grief, a bully
bursts through
the door,
no warning.

Blindsided
my heart
pummeled,
I pray
I breathe
I connect
to the earth
and
the universe,
knowing that
grief will
blow out
the back
door
and return
in time.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tuning In

These days, I am looking for inspiration everywhere.  Losing Jerry's physical presence is a struggle.  This reality has become a part of me, just as his living is a part of me and so is his passing and the aftermath of this life-changing event. I am able to get up in the morning, make a decent cup of coffee, feed the cats cat food and the dogs dog food.  It has not always been this way, for a long time I was unable to read and unable to carry on a conversation because I would lose my train of thought.  Some days are better than others, but for the most part I am doing OK.

Most days, I make sure that I walk preferably in the woods or along the ocean.  I engage in activities that feed me and make me feel good. Soon after Jerry passed, I bought some yarn and began a big project.  So now and again, I pick up the yarn, knit a bit and marvel at the deep shade of garnet.  Soon the poncho/shawl will be a perfect addition to my fall wardrobe.  Recently, I signed up for two online art classes.  I dabble in drawing, painting and collage.  Writing has also been an avenue for expressing my inner most thoughts and feelings.

             Costa Rica during one of my visits to the mountains.

Any reference to grief and loss, emphasizes self-care.  When I think about self-care, images of plates filled with fresh vegetables and walking through the doors of the YMCA to work out swim in an out of my brain.  This is how I define self-care.  Through this experience I have expanded and revamped my vision.  It might be the cup of tea that I savor while watching the birds waiting for the squirrel to stop feeding.  It might be stopping and thinking about what I need at the moment.  Just days after my husband's passing I chose to close the door to the room I was staying in.  I chose to lay in bed.  At that point I wasn't sure that I ever wanted to get up and have to function.  Too agitated to sleep, I rested.  And when I could rest no more, I realized that I have a choice: to stay in bed or to get up.  And then, for some strange reason I had the urge to curl my hair. (If you know me, you know just how bizarre this thought is for me.) Heating up the flat iron, I soon had styled my hair so it was smoothed out, but flipped up at the very end.  It made me feel beautiful.  It made me feel something other than sorrowful, if only for a moment. I wore this hair style for weeks.

Now, I schedule pleasantries into my day by tuning into to what I need everyday. An affirmation suggested by Maria Sorois, "I wish to love myself a little bit more today."  I am a work in progress, ever-evolving.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Care

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it matters.  As if the nourishment of your body in such a simple direct way matters...and it does.  All other wisdom about gathering happiness after loss rests in our ability to bring toward ourselves that which sustains us. Before we can thread together a life that rises in the presence of sorrow we must include loving ourselves through acts of care. When we do we can begin to experience the world as if love and hope and goodness do exist.- Maria Sirois from A Short Course in Happiness After Loss

After a weekend of staring grief in the face, my body is in revolt.  I stayed home from work, fearing that pieces of myself might break off in big hunks as I raced down the hall.  (Use your imagination, otherwise TMI!)  This morning, after some extra rest I  sipped warm water and lemon, drew a hot bath and then anointed my body with oil.  Slowing down moves me inward. This is what I need: Sit with my feelings of sadness and loss to move beyond it.  Sip miso broth and coconut water and seek help with my inner work-pray and meditate throughout the day.

Sirois says that happiness rests in our ability to bring to ourselves what sustains us.  This has continually been a question throughout my life. Nourishing myself spiritually and physically have been key. Specific answers come when I am quiet, open and mindful-trusting that intuitively what resonates is what I need.  This is my role in taking care of myself through my journey with grief and knowing that really despite all the love and kindness offered to me by others,  I must, in kind extend gentle love to myself.  I am enough.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Respite

Basking in a bit of weekend respite.  Please come back on Monday to visit travelinma.  Happy weekend! I really appreciate all my dear readers and commenters.  It means a lot to me as I travel this road.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

bit by bit

i used to create
to entertain others,
but now i do it
in an attempt
to piece
my broken self
together,
bit by bit.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Blessed Days

RETURNING TO LIFE AFTER BEING DEAD – When I am feeling dreary, annoyed, and generally unimpressed by life, I imagine what it would be like to come back to this world for just a day after having been dead. I imagine how sentimental I would feel about the very things I once found stupid, hateful, or mundane. Oh, there’s a light switch! I haven’t seen a light switch in so long! I didn’t realize how much I missed light switches! Oh! Oh! And look – the stairs up to our front porch are still completely cracked! Hello cracks! Let me get a good look at you. And there’s my neighbor, standing there, fantastically alive, just the same, still punctuating her sentences with you know what I’m saying? Why did that bother me? It’s so…endearing.-Amy Krauss Rosenthal


One day I found a banana smashed on the floor.  Annoyed for days, I related this disappointment to a friend who reminded me that someday my house will be empty and quite tidy with all the banana wielding children of mine adults. I never considered that my home would really be empty.  Jerry and I anticipated an empty nest with just the two of us.  Sadly, it will never happen.
I have read that survivors hold their loved one in a state of perfection.  It is true, I am hard pressed to think of things that annoyed me about him, yet I bet my kids would say I was plenty annoyed. After taxing my memory, the few things I can think of are now trivial: throughout the week dirty socks littered the bedroom floor and remained in balls until I put them in the laundry basket and he never seemed to change the cat box as much as I did. After almost six months without him, the petty annoyances have filtered out of my brain like a dream catcher releases nightmares.    On this dreary, cold rainy morning in Maine, when I am feeling just a bit sad, I remain sentimental about my life with Jerry.  I treasure every day I spent with him-the good days, the bad days and the days that were quite ordinary and mundane.  They all take on a renewed energy infused with love and sentimentality. I realize just how blessed I was.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Forgive Me

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'erfraught heart, and bids it break.-Shakespeare

Forgive me,
I chatter about my
husband incessantly,
much like new parents
talk about first teeth
and first steps,
gratefully
I don't dwell on lasts
much,
because through
the grace of God,
I did not know they
were lasts.
However, I remember
our
last
dance,
he took my hand
in his
and led me
to the dance floor
our friends near,
he held me close,
we moved in sync
to each other
and the music,
his face pinched
in pain,
I urged him to sit-
No, he said,
I know you 
like to dance.





Monday, April 24, 2017

Real


Spring in Maine
unpredictable,
winter weather hangs on
even in late April
while
forsythia
blooms
I wear wool socks,
not just because of
the cold
but,
rather
I think
I cannot
bear the
passage of time.


Season upon season
month by month
time passes
alone
while the chances
of forgetting
him become
real.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Great Love

                                          An Original Rendering of My Great Love


“Emptiness is not a great loss. It creates a great opportunity to fill yourself again and again with great love.” ― Debasish Mridha

This is not
a chance to
re-write my
life story,
but to
embellish it,
to capitalize on
a great love
that is
infused in every cell
enriching
who I am today,
and with God's
healing and succor
who I will become.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

wooing a girl

He knew how to woo a girl.  A composer and a musician, he wrote me songs and played them for me. In front of our family and friends, while I could barely speak because I was overcome with emotion, this man played his guitar and sang me a song during our wedding ceremony. He also was a cook, a handy dandy fix it man, he cleaned and changed diapers. He fiercely loved his parents, his siblings and his children. He loved the island that he grew up on and had first hand knowledge of all the crooks and crannies and together we would go on wild adventures on mountaintops or sometimes on water.  He would try anything and convince you he knew what he was doing.  He built our first home; he had never built a house before.  Without the ease of electricity, he built it by himself with hand tools.  We were into smaller homes without a mortgage before it was a fashionable thing to do.

Today, I treated myself to a pedicure.  As the attendant was applying lotion and massaging my feet, I choked back tears.  My husband gave me regular foot massages.  Some may characterize me as demanding, but my sweet husband never denied me a foot massage.  Never. Since his passing, it is the daily human touch that I miss most. I am accustomed to daily hugs and kisses.  Now, instead I get morning kisses from my dog Rex and nudges from my sweet cat Charlie, but it isn't the same.

For 37 years I was with a man who woke me with kisses and a variation of,
"Good morning Beautiful.  I love you."  How fortunate that we were partners in this life.  And I was so well loved.

I believe that he continues to love me for how else could I manage?

Friday, April 21, 2017

what's a girl to do?

No wonder I know nothing about it.  When my mother was trying to explain in the middle of Grant's Department store, I slunk away.  Embarrassed that I would see a girl in my class or worse, a boy.

Within the last year, my husband helped me loop string around myself. We carefully cut the string and measured it using a yard stick.  He explained it all to me, but I still don't get it.  Maybe I still didn't care.  I had him; he understood; that was all that mattered, at the time.

"What size am I again?" I asked him as we both looked through the bras at TJ Maxx.

Honestly, I could care less about bras; for years opting for the one size fits all variety that has little charm or appeal, but does the job.

"How do you know all this?" I asked as I searched for the appropriate size as determined by my husband.  

"I dated a lot of girls before I met you," he replied.

Still this gave me little understanding of how he knew this.  Did he talk about bras over jello for dessert (his dessert specialty while we were dating)?  Certainly, this never came up in our conversations.  The truth is I will never know, since I didn't press him further.

Now, I wear bras that my husband chose for me.  Every morning I chuckle to think of the irony of it all.  He had good taste and he knew a thing about comfortable fitting bras that look pretty darn nice. They make me feel beautiful.  I wonder, now what am I going to do without him. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Progress

This morning I spent hours and hours looking for something.  I didn't find it.  The problem is that I have absolutely no recollection of what I did with it. I can't find the list of people I wanted to send thank you notes to either.  Full admission here, I also lost things before, but a brain operating under the weight of loss gets little relief.  If I didn't read the literature about grief and talk to others who are widows and widowers, I would think that I am ready to convalesce with someone to assist me with functional living.  The upside is that I found an art journal text that I was looking for and I located a sweater (a favorite) that I forgot I had.

Despite my frustration, I am told I am doing well.  It is important that I put things into perspective. I can now carry on a conversation and speak in full sentences.  Most nights, I sleep through the night.  I can now take naps, whereas before I was too agitated and restless. I am now able to read whole books and sit and write for hours at a time. Financially, I am holding my head above water by myself.  I am able to hold a job and get up each morning.  I am a single mother and I am able to feed, shelter and clothe my youngest who is still at home.  Asking for help and delegating responsibility has never been a problem for me.  I am able to hold onto a few dreams that my husband and I had together.  I guess all this is progress.  I am grateful for all the loving thoughts coming my way.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

is there presence in absence?

Her absence is the sky, spread over everything. -CS Lewis




We didn't have long to get use to the brevity of Jerry's life.  A week maybe.  Even then, we all thought that the "ox of a man" that he was would somehow pull through.

Still through the news, I tried hard to stay positive and in the present.  Now and again, while still in Boston, I would wonder through our house in my head, anticipating the emptiness, the pain.  I could not bear to dwell there for long.

It is true that I feel the absence of my husband in the home that he built and the house we raised our children.  Yet, I also feel peace.  I am drawn here.   It is familiar.  It represents my life.

Like Lewis felt his wife's absence in everything and everywhere, I feel Jerry's absence where ever I am. I carry it with me whether I am in the car, roaming the halls of the high school or running into the grocery store for fruit and milk.  His absence presents itself as a nagging, constant dull ache in the center of my heart.  I am reminded of him while I am cutting fruit, baking bread or making the morning coffee.  He is constantly on my mind whether I am brushing my teeth, putting on make-up or sweeping the floor.

I feel his absence all the time.  Does this pain I carry thwart my ability to feel his presence? Or do I feel his presence in his absence?





Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Time Stood Still




He opened the choke, pulled the cord
it took a few times
before we were headed down
the pond
slowly,
he trolled for fish
through the no-wake zone.

The stern
was loaded with gear,
fishing poles,
tackle boxes
with sinkers, bobbers
and the latest and greatest
lures,
the bow was weighted down
with a canvas bag loaded with
books, magazines
a journal,
water,
snacks
sunscreen and natural bug repellent-
ready for the long haul.

Once in the open water
the boat sped passed
islands
rounded mountains ahead
evergreens shadowed,
we motored along
the outboard robbing
our sense of hearing,
sights heightened
thick trees as far as we could see
on either side of the water.

We headed in the direction of the beach
mounded with bits of pink granite,
he killed the engine in a cove across the way,
water lilies dotted the area
a warm breeze lifted the sweet scent,
he dressed his line with a worm,
flicked the pole,
the line reaching,
the boat drifted
and he paddled us
into the perfect position
where he swore he was going to
catch a fish,
while I snapped photos of the lilies,
read, journaled
leaned my back against the bow,
watching my husband
so happy
the sun shining on us,
as time
stood still.




Monday, April 17, 2017

Home

Winter clothes crowd my suit case,
I fully expected to walk along the beach
scarf wrapped
warming,
my boots sinking
deep into the sand,
but
instead,
I walked barefooted,
closing my eyes
pretending it was summer.

Whenever I visit home
I walk the beaches
where as a kid
I dug deep holes
until they pooled with water,
collected shells and sand dollars,
the expanse of ocean stretching to the
thin horizon line,
I imagined
floating out
to sea.


I am drawn to the sea.
Here I am home.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Reformed

He was a drunk.

I know the facts,
I know.
He was always
striving for perfection
as an imperfect human,
an internal storm
spewed sadness and anger.

How do you tell someone
that he was so much more?
When I was little he liked
to hold me in his lap,
and later during my teen years
we went to Fenway together.
He made the best fish chowder,
he liked his coffee black
and he had an infinity for
fluff or whipped cream and fruit
on his pancakes.
He loved to travel now and again,
He loved family weddings
and he was drawn to the work of
Andrew Wyeth,
And in the last few decades of his life
he gave up drinking,
he softened.


The word
drunk
assaulted me,
saddened me,
how can
one word
define
a person?
I prefer
reformed.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Kitchen Charm

Until my sister mentioned it earlier today, I had forgotten that my husband liked brown and serve rolls.  Fortunately, I cannot remember the last time I popped them into the oven for 5 minutes and smeared on a generous pad of butter in a futile attempt to improve the taste.  Over the years, I'd like to think that I had a hand in refining my husband's palette.

In high school I began baking bread using a cold raising technique.  Early in our marriage, I discovered  a versatile potato dough that morphed into dinner rolls or yummy cinnamon rolls.  They would regularly appear as part of our weekend menus.  It has been years since I last made this recipe and it has been years since I last made anything remotely resembling bread because all control is for naught.

I was asked to make dinner rolls for Easter dinner and I found a new recipe to try.   Tonight as I cut the dough and gently pulled the rolls into shape, I thought of my husband; grateful for all those years I was able to charm him in the kitchen.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Off News


Life is overwhelming
enough,
I am off news,
but I caught glimpses
of PBS News
at a friend's house
the other night
and
learned about the bomb.

Fox News blares
while I get my car
serviced,
the more I try
to avoid listening
the more I hear-
strange thing.

This morning
I talked with a kindergartener
about chickadees and
hardwood trees
as we meandered
through the forest
with every student
and
adult
in my school
celebrating Earth Day
Arbor Day
beginning the day with
a hike.

I am off news
preferring the views of the
world
from a 6 year old perspective,
I like it that way.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Impossible

One by one
I pop them into
my mouth,
M & M's
too easy to lose track
of the number consumed,
the chocolate breaks through
the hard shell
and melts in my mouth
I barely notice the taste.

I roll a red one between my fingers
and I talk,
my brain sparks
shooting random thoughts
then becomes slow and sluggish.
I talk of love lost,
barely talked-about
grief,
often misunderstood.

I read original poems,
my broken heart
spills onto the page,
my friends are silent-
overcome.

We talk of life
of love
and we part
knowing that what
we all had was something
that is hard to describe
and impossible to replace.






The Peace of the Wild Things

                                                                                  Photo by Travelinma

When despair for the world grows in me
 and I wake in the night at the least sound
 in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
 I go and lie down where the wood drake
 rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
 I come into the peace of wild things
 who do not tax their lives with forethought
 of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
 And I feel above me the day-blind stars
 waiting with their light. For a time
 I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
                                                                -Wendell Berry




Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Importance of Being

"How do we know about those around us?...Sit close to someone you love and implore that person to tell and tell and tell their story. " -Thanhha Lai


Everyone holds stories that reveal bits of themselves. If we only take the time to connect and listen.

After losing the big love of my life, I find I crave connection. Now, I sit for hours and visit with friends and family. It reminiscent of college days when I would sit in the dorm and talk and talk until the wee hours of the morning. Life seemed to stretch out ahead of us, unending; we thought we had all the time in the world, and nothing was more important than those connections.

Settled into the comfort of married life, if invited out, we would often decline. Instead we would stretch out on either end of the couch reading or go for a long walks holding hands. (This was not only romantic, but an attempt to moderate my husband's long strides.) I didn't want for more. We had each other.

Now, my heart yearns to reach out to others. I collect stories. I collect them over dinner. I collect while grabbing handfuls of homemade popcorn seasoned with brewer's yeast and dill and lament the tini-ness of Tiny Houses, swoon in the rich sound of my Yamaha guitar and talk fermented foods. I listen to the dreams of my daughter, the nursing student or the training of a soldier, my son. I connect while sipping herbal tea, listen to travel plans, and spiritual matters. Jerry stories are a constant.

Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.-Mohsin Hamid
As I connect with others, gather collective stories and share and listen to Jerry stories, I am discovering myself and beginning to build my future alone.

Each day is a gift. In the face of death, my husband chose to thank God for each day. Through this journey we both rediscovered of the importance of connecting with others and practicing love. I choose to connect with my heart. I want to know about those around me. In knowing others, I begin to understand myself and all that is possible.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Brave

Some call me brave,
I am not brave.
I am choice-less.

I measure my days 
by closing the curtains
to the street light,
sliding into a bed
that is much too big
and
waking again
by drawing the curtains
open
in the hopes of finding
some
light.

I am not brave.
I am choice-less.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday Hikes

                                            Jerry on a Sunday Hike-2016
                                     (Photo compliments of Alison Murdoch)

For the past year, Sundays have been devoted to long, long walks with friends.  In grief literature and talking with other survivors,  I was told that often the invitations just don't come anymore especially if you tended to do things as a couple with other couples.  I have been so fortunate.  That has not happened to me.  My friends still invite me to hike with them.  Today for instance, as we were hiking and sinking up to our knees in the last bit of snow, I quipped, "This is a Jerry thing.  These kinds of things happened all the time whenever I hiked with Jerry."  My friends know Jerry and how he operated, although for the most part he would behave himself on these Sundays.  For example historically, we'd often get lost. We'd be on a mountain top in the middle of an electrical storm.  He'd traverse us over boulders, roots and "raging" rivers. Seems after a time, I would have known better, but I always followed him and trusted.  You'd never know what would happen when Jerry left the house.  Does anyone have any Jerry stories?

Beautiful


                                                                             Blueberry Fields at Camp

The ice on the pond
thins,
logs are dropped into the belly
of the stove,
dogs doze
Pink Floyd plays,
I sip matcha,
a change of scene
does good to forget
and at the same time
remember,
you follow me where-ever
I go,
whatever I do
you remind me of what I had
and
what I have lost.
Then on the ride
home
the radio
plays
Lightfoot's 
Beautiful
and I cry
tears of gratitude
and
love.

Gordon Lightfoot was among Jerry's all time favorite musicians.  A few years ago, I brought Jerry to see Lightfoot for his birthday.  The line, so fitting: " I think that I was made for you and you were made for me."  How lucky am I? A rarity. And...Jerry called me Beautiful.



Saturday, April 8, 2017

I Don't Know

Stuck in a tornado of emotions,
Caught up in thoughts of sorrow, loneliness
And grief.
The dust bunnies multiply
I sit
My throat aches
And the tears tickle as they run.

How do I manage?
Day by day,
Yes,
But really how do I live without you
Month after month,
Year after year?
How?
I don't know.


Books Books and More Books

Piles of books teeter beside my chair where I watch the birds and sip my morning latte and then sit for afternoon tea.  More are beside my bed, while my shelves hold volumes.  Books are in my purse and in the car. It feels good to be able to read again, since my concentration has improved.  There was a time when I grew anxious about ever being able to read more than a Facebook post. For a short time I viewed myself as a fraud;I'm a reading teacher for goodness sakes who couldn't read more than a few sentences at a time. Thankfully, now I am reading and I am writing.  My concentration is improving. Relieved, I can authentically talk about my struggles with my students.  It gently reminds me just how much of the brain is robbed from chronic stress. I hope that this experience makes me a better teacher and human being.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A Full Bed


Ready for sleep, I see my bed is already full where one dog sometimes two, and three cats sleep.  With a sickly sweet tone I say, "Move over." Waiting a second for any sign of movement, I decide to turn down the covers and slide into bed anyway. Inch by inch I push my way with my legs into my own bed. I am teetering between the bed and the floor. "Impossible," I yell into the air and more gruffly order, "Move!" Nothing. I slip my hands under Rex's body and with all my strength I roll him over so I can get just a little room to sleep on my side in MY bed. Once I am fully on the bed, I realize that my 50 pound dog is on the top of the blankets and I can't cover to get cozy. Finally, I order him off the bed and quickly pull up the covers, my movements quick and jerky because I fear that I won't be settled  before he hops into bed again. This always ends with a chuckle.

The funny thing is this scenario plays much the same most nights, but it takes me by surprise each time it happens. A curious thing!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Questions and More Questions

From the way I have been talking anyone would think that H's death mattered chiefly for its effect on myself. Her point of view has seemed to have dropped out of sight. -CS Lewis, A Grief Observed

Even before I read the above quote, the exact notion had been on my mind for a long time.  My blog posts are all about me.  All about my pain and grief.  Twinges of guilt surface.  I am preoccupied with the complications of living alone in this world. Suddenly thoughts of Jerry are overshadowed, yet I think about him constantly.  It is hard to explain.

I know what images my Catholic upbringing creates for heaven, hell and limbo. The nuns used to give the impression that limbo was the worst-a place where there is no movement toward heaven and no movement closer to hell. My current understanding is that heaven is nearness to God and hell is remoteness from God and that limbo does not exist,but that prayers can aid the soul to progress closer to God.  While praying this morning I broke down.  A portion of the Prayer for the Departed caught in my throat, ".....dispel their sorrows, change their darkness into light..."  I have been saying this prayer a zillion times a day and only this morning, I wondered:  Is Jerry sorrowful?  Is Jerry in darkness?   All these months I have worried little about Jerry.  He is no longer in pain.  His health is restored.  He is near God.  He was not without faults (being a human), but suddenly I wonder, he is more than OK, right?

There has just been so much to deal with here on this earth.  Often I am overwhelmed.  So to compartmentalize my life and Jerry's new life with the trust that he is more than flourishing, I have been able to survive.  Lewis also comes to a point when he questions what state his wife is in after her passing.  They tell me that H is at peace. What makes them so sure of this?...Why should the separation (if nothing else) which so agonizes the lover who is left behind be painless to the lover who departs?  Does Jerry ache for me as much as I ache for him?  Somehow I picture him knowing my every thought, watching my every move, but how can I be so sure? I think that he has better access to me than I do currently to him.  It is all so confusing and there is so much that is really unknown.  I have so so many questions.

And then I remembered the dreams, so vivid, where he visited me reassuring me that he was whole, that he was always with me and that he loved me deeply.

I  continue to pray.  Thoughts of Jerry are a constant. I pray for reassurance that he is OK and that my family with time will be OK too.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

One Word

I walk into the local market to pick up some almond milk and one can of organic grain-free dog food.  I wander the aisles just in case I'm missing something important, but I feel much like a lost soul.  From aisle to aisle I discount we need more eggs, dried beans or mixed greens.  Careful about adhering to a budget, I put the two items on the conveyor belt, pay and head out the door.

While putting the cart away, I hug another basketball mom who I haven't run into since Jerry passed.  She asked what happened.  "Cancer.....all clear....sick all summer....no answers...pain." 

The word stuck in my throat.  Pain. My husband endured so so much.  I just lost it. 



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

WHAT MY CHILDHOOD TASTED LIKE

             
                               

Sea-salty steamed clams,                                
I remember the first time I ate them
dripping with melted butter                          
at Wormwood's Restaurant in Camp Ellis,
I think my mother cut me off,
I ate too many.

On hands and knees
in a vast field,
 I picked until my fingers were stained
red,
Little tart, sweet jewels
Wild strawberries.

My Gram pressed coins
into my hand
sending me to Reilly's Bakery
for eclairs,
the custard oozed
when bitten or the pastry was held too tight,
we indulged, just the two of us.

Peppermint stick ice cream
dripped down my hand,
down my arm to my elbow,
a melted flow,
my mother yelled, 'Lick!"
the napkin stuck to the sugar cone.

Root beer barrels, two for a penny,
I sat on the scratchy beach blanket
the candy rolling inside my mouth,
when I grew tired of root beer
I counted the licks to the center of a
cherry tootsie pop, until my tongue grew
tired.

  (This post is inspired by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.)            



Monday, April 3, 2017

Control and Order


The image begins to sharpen.
Before adjusting the lens
everything is a blur.
I see the little yellow birds feeding furiously.

For months now,
since shortly after Jerry's death
I have observed the living-
collecting data such as bird sightings and weather.

I thought that recorded observations would provide answers,
but instead
it prompts more questions.

Noisy jays visit one day and not the next,
this morning goldfinches perch
for the first time ever, feeding
while speckled starlings cling to the worn suet bag
and cooing mourning doves feed on the ground.

Carefully, I record the date,
the birds,
the temperature
and the weather.
I last filled the feeder yesterday.
Control and order
I realize
are really illusions.










Sunday, April 2, 2017

Anticipate, Plan and Hope

Jerry, Wispy clouds float in a sky blue,
most of the snow is gone
puddles dot the field,
the grass looks like shredded wheat,
lawn mowers sit undercover
waiting.

A squirrel darts from nowhere,
I grip the steering wheel tighter
and squeeze my eyes shut,
just for a second and exhale
thinking that was a close one
for that little guy.
How lucky.

I ran into the grocery store
the other day
at about 7 pm
the parking lot empty,
the store too quiet
I picked out a cantaloupe
on sale
unripened, too hard to eat.
It sat on the counter
until this morning I pierced the
webbed rind with the tip of the knife
and after a couple of cuts
I popped a chunk into my mouth
and I thought of you-
morning fruit medleys,
your favorite.

George our neighbor
met me half way between
our house and his
to open a bottle
of Maple Syrup
the one you bought me this summer,
my hand too weak to muster strength,
my heart too sad to
register all the ways
I miss you.

This is what the living do,
straddle between the before and after,
the what ifs and the what is,
the what was and what could have been.

Meanwhile, the compost needs to be dumped
near the strawberries you planted.
I can't help but wonder
what the harvest will yield.
On your hands and knees last spring
a year ago you anticipated years of picking
because that is what the living do,
Anticipate, plan and hope
For a future that may never come.

(This was inspired by Marie Howe's What the Living Do.)








Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Lumberjack


Stanley, the lumberjack is here.  So far he has cleaned out the ashes, started a fire and is now on his way to the dump to take care of the recyclables and trash.  When we closed the inn years ago, he stayed on with us at the log cabin.  It helped us and it kept him busy.  Jerry was his boss.  He and Jerry had grand plans-a vision.  Now, I must be the one to hold the visions and direct.
It's a big task.

This Saturday morning is strangely quiet. I miss Jerry.  I miss the hearty laughs and stories that Stanley and Jerry would exchange. I miss the delineations in our lives.  Jerry primarily dealt with heating, yard work/gardening and tinkering about the house.  Right now, I hold it all.

My vision is to simplify.  I know it will take time.  In the meantime, I must be patient, breathe and trust that all will be well. I am so grateful that little bits of my life remain the same.  It is good to have Stanley around now and again.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Want to Shake Up Your World?


Able to juggle the schedule of a household of nine to ten people, plus hold the responsibilities of teaching full time, I was always thankful for my memory, an ability to move herds of people and capable of finding tools to keep me organized.  (I use the label organized loosely, however, but that is another posting.) I have found that my brain is not functioning optimally these days, but it is getting better.

My knowledge of grief began in college and is based upon Kubler-Ross' work studying terminal patients. Since Kubler-Ross broke the silence on the subject of grief, for years her stages of grief were utilized for grieving survivors as well as patients.  Grief is not a linear path, nor is it the same for each person. When my parents died almost fifteen years ago, I thought that one day I would get over it.  And now in the aftermath of my husband's death, for me I am discovering that it is not something I can muscle through, but that I will be forever changed and will continue to evolve and adjust no longer as a couple, but as an individual, capable of joy and gratitude. I can continue to dance and learn to do it with a limp.

I like Anne Lamotte's take on grief:

“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

With grief comes self-discovery.  For the first few months, I could barely converse, losing memory of what I was trying to say mid-sentence.  I was understandably preoccupied.  The problem I found, there was so much to be done and it seems that everything is time sensitive and high stakes.  Undertakers, lawyers, insurance companies,  and are all categorized as important, BIG deals.  I needed my head on straight to make the best decisions for me and my family.

Yes, prayer helps.  Physical activity helps as does getting enough rest.  Family, friends and the community at large rallied around us.  All of this helped me get through each day, but I needed a 
peripheral brain.  Here enters the Bullet Journal; life changing for me.  

I cannot say enough about how it has helped me break down big tasks and beat back waves of feeling overwhelmed.  If offers the chance to write down monthly, weekly and daily goals and appointments. For fun, I keep track of birds I have observed and the weather.  My favorite musical artists are listed as are movies to watch, books to read and a diary of what I eat.  Extensive financial pages include a budget, an expense journal and a savings plan. It is my everything journal. The beauty of the Bullet Journal is that it can become whatever is useful for you, it is adaptable. For me the Bullet Journal frees my brain from storing everything I need to remember.

If you want to learn more about Bullet Journals, I highly recommend you start here. There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest and Bullet Journal groups on Face Book.  Let me know what you think.  It just might shake up your world.

The Freedom to Create



I ran my hand across the bolts of fabric organized by color and arranged by shade as I walked down the aisle; batik prints and patterns, some metallic-really works of art.  Up and down I walked, pausing to admire and breathe deeply.  I got the same exact feeling I get at Art Museums, one of peace, serenity and a connection to everything possible.

Getting lost on Pinterest is easy, but I had chosen a small project with fat quarters that I could sew by hand.  My artsy daughter and I headed for the table with the fat quarters.  A knack for color and what fabrics may work together, she offered set after set of possibilities.  Soon I was headed out of the store with a pair of scissors (I immediately marked them with a Sharpie: FABRIC), straight pins, a pin cushion and a floral fabric with coordinating colors. You can tell I am not an avid "fabric-ator."

With a cup of tea nearby, and Netflix I sewed and sewed without expectations for a timeline or quality. I thought of my grandmother, sewing throughout the day tackling one by one the items in her mending basket.  This was out of necessity and probably satisfaction, but not pleasure. Fortunately, I am free to create and have fun. These days I am working hard enjoying the process and not stressing about an end product. Perfectionism gone. My origami bag/lunch bag will be a work of art.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Thoughts While Changing the Cat Box


Lately, I contemplate life while I sift through the cat box.  Really.  

My husband's sense of smell was pretty weak, so I would mention that the cat box was odorous.

"Your turn.  I did it last time.  As a matter of fact I've done it for the last three times," my voice is balance between firm and sickly sweet. I feign that my attention is fully spent on the book I am reading, but I am really waiting for him to pounce on the cat box, watching him out of the corner of my eye.

Nothing.

"Wow," a few minutes later I just can't help it, "I know that you can't smell a thing, but it really, really stinks." My voice changes to understanding and pleading.

I glance over to my husband.  I am not sure he has even heard me.  His nose is in a book.

Tonight, I contemplate my suddenly changed life as I sift the cat box.  How I miss my husband.  He did his fair share of cat box duty. I am sure of it.

Changes

The freezing rain sitting on top of the layer of snow is soft underfoot, but will  ice over by morning.  The salt sits by the door in a impractical plastic bag with handles. Not trusting the handles, carrying it from the car and into the house, I nestle it against my body like I would a baby.   Early in the winter, I found a large tin can that holds enough salt to cover the steps and then some.   I broadcast the salt on the steps and walkway in the same way I would feed the chickens leftover cooked rice. I know what I am dealing with when it comes to winter, so far I have survived.

Despite the cold, the snow and ice there is evidence that the ground is thawing. Puddles and mud are abundant.  As the seasons change, so must there be a shift in my thinking and planning.  I realize that I am so unprepared for this next season.  I don't know what to expect.  I don't even know if I have a working lawnmower to manage the nearly 5 acres of lawn.


The challenges that winter has brought are faced day by day.  When I need help, it comes.   Spring is just another season with different set of challenges that I will face day by day.  When I need help, I will get it.  All I have to do is ask and trust that all will be well.